In 2008 I went to the cinema with my Dad to watch the first Iron Man film. After taking a moment to compose myself and try and compute what I’d just witnessed after the film finished, I stood to leave. My Dad grabbed my sleeve and told me to sit back down. ‘Something awesome happens after the credits have finished,’ he said. He wasn’t wrong.
Shortly after announcing to the world that he was Iron Man, Robert Downey Jr’s Tony Stark returns home. Walking back into his darkened living room he notices a figure standing in the darkness. That figure turns out to be Samuel L. Jackson wearing an eye-patch, or Nick Fury as he’s known in the Marvel Universe. “You think you’re the only superhero in the world? Mr Stark, you’ve become part of a bigger universe, you just don’t know it yet. I’m here to talk to you about the Avengers Initiative.”, he says before the screen turns to black and the lights of the cinema came on to reveal that a teenage employee of the ODEON, who clearly hadn’t been briefed about this extra scene, was cleaning shards of popcorn from my Reebok Classic Workouts with a brush.
In the ten years since, the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) has seen 18 film releases (to date) with nine separate film franchises (with 50+ superhero characters) that each crossover and lead on to giant crossover films, The Avengers, where a selection of heroes join forces to battle classic comic book villains. Three trilogies: Iron Man, Captain America and Thor are now complete, and we’ve been to Nowhere in space, Asgard, the multi-verse and quantum realm, and back. And it’s not just me that has fallen completely in love with the entire MCU – to date, the films have grossed over $14 billion at the box office. Even with multiple viewings at the cinema, plus popcorn, hot dogs and mixed flavour Ice Blasts, I’ve contributed £500ish to that. And I got several pairs of 3D glasses out of it. Cheers, Iron Man. That last Ice Blast was for you, homie.
All of this has all been leading up the 27 April when the Avengers team up with Guardians of the Galaxy and a host of other heroes to battle the biggest of big baddies, Thanos, who has been casting his giant titan sized purple shadow over the MCU since Avengers 1. I’ve just watched the latest trailer again for Avengers Infinity War, for maybe the 30th time. I already know that Thanos does a lot of very hard punching in peoples faces with his giant jewelled metal gauntlet. I’m now a bit worried about the health of the people whose faces are on the end of said punches, but I’ll come to that later.
Since the most recent trailer launched five days ago on YouTube it’s been watched 43 million times. The original teaser trailer landed 3 months ago and has been watched 157 million times. Many people, people just like me, spent days over months on Reddit speculating about when the trailer would launch, and hours more when it did, speculating about what hints are contained in the two-and-a-half-minute trailer for a film which ties up all the loose ends from 18 films and ten years. Many of the films and even entire franchises have been leading up to this film. Characters will breathe their last breath in them and finish their stories across the two-parter (the follow up, Avengers 4, is released in 2019), and I’ll pour out a little Ice Blast for them when they do.
These comic book stories brought to life are a masterpiece in storytelling, all unique in terms of style and mostly individual successes in their own right, following individual character arcs over the life of their own franchises, but then also working for one another for a larger overall arc over ten years. It’s pretty remarkable.
Remarkable because a lot of real life happens in ten years. I’m definitely a different person doing very different stuff today than the person that watched Iron Man in 2008 with my Dad. But it’ll very possibly be my Dad and me watching Avengers Infinity War together sometime in early May. We’ve talked about each film in turn as it’s been announced and then increasingly excitedly until it’s released, when we’ll try and book a date, mostly unsuccessfully in recent years, to watch the latest film together. They’ve been constantly exciting through the up and downs of life in that period – a building and often surprising set of stories that we have loved to share, talk and get excited about together. There’ll be a lot of relationships for whom that is true with the MCU.
And, remarkable because that idea, the ten-year story of stories, started in peoples heads, albeit people who are adapting characters which already existed in well-read comics, and those people have constantly steered this thing over that period, leading us towards the next films and whatever comes beyond that. And there is yet to be announced stuff already decided for the MCU beyond 2019. Unannounced because the titles of the films will spoil what happens in the next story. This is a big ongoing vision for the entertainment of me and millions of other people, for at least the next ten years. And I’m glad they’re keeping it a surprise, too, because I’m all in already.
And now I find myself wondering what that lad with the brush is doing ten years on from our meeting. Maybe, as a result of being inspired by watching the post-credits scene with my Dad and me, he’s a superhero now? I hope so. I’d look forward to watching his film.